Showing posts with label 2021. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2021. Show all posts

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Review: Disney's "ENCANTO" Spins Its Own Special Magic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 12 of 2023 (No. 1901) by Leroy Douresseaux

Encanto (2021)
Running time:  102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some thematic elements and mild peril
DIRECTORS:  Jared Bush and Byron Howard with Charise Castro Smith (co-director)
WRITERS:  Jared Bush and Charise Castro Smith; from a story by Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith, Jason Hand, Nancy Kruse, and Lin-Manuel Miranda
PRODUCERS:  Clark Spencer and Yvett Merino
CINEMATOGRAPHERS:  Alessandro Jacomini, Daniel Rice, and Nathan Warner
EDITOR:  Jeremy Milton
ORIGINAL SONGS:  Lin-Manuel Miranda
COMPOSER:  Germaine Franco

ANIMATION/FANTASY/FAMILY/DRAMA

Starring:  (voices) Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Adassa, Maluma, Rose Portillo, Alan Tudyk, and Noemi Josefina Flores

Encanto is a 2021 computer-animated fantasy film from directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard and produced Walt Disney Animation Studios.  It is the 60th animated feature film in the “Walt Disney Animated Classics” line.  Encanto focuses on a teenage girl who must deal with being the only member of her family without magical powers even as the family's magic begins to fade.

Encanto introduces Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), a teen girl who is part of the multi-generational "la familia Madrigal" (the Madrigal family).  Fifty years ago, her grandfather and grandmother, Pedro and Alma Madrigal (Maria Cecilia Botero), were forced to flee their home village in rural Columbia.  They took their infant triplets, Julieta, Pepa and Bruno, and escaped into the countryside, but their pursuers killed Pedro, but Alma had a candle that suddenly released magic and repelled the attackers.  The magic also created, “Casita,” a living or sentient house for Alma and her children.  The home is located in “Encanto,” a magical realm bordered by high mountains.  A village of newcomers now thrives under the candle's protection, shining its light from an upper room in the Madrigal home, “La Casa Madrigal.”

But all is not well.  The children and grandchildren of Abuela Alma were all granted magical gifts that each one uses to serve the villagers.  For instance, Mirabel's oldest sister, Isabela (Diane Guerrero), can make flowers grow anywhere, and her second oldest sister, Luisa (Jessica Darrow), has superhuman strength.  However, Mirabel did not receive any powers from the candle, and her Abuela Alma seems to act as if Mirabel is an obstacle in the way of the rest of the family.  Mirabel is almost as cursed as her mysterious uncle, Bruno (John Leguizamo), who disappeared years ago.  When Mirabel learns that her family members are losing their magic, she is determined to find out what is happening, although everyone else is in a state a denial about it.

I won't waste too much time telling you, dear readers, how beautiful Encanto looks.  That is standard for animated films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios.  The art direction yields beautiful sets and environments, and the costume designs results in colorful costumes that are dazzling, colorful, and imaginative.  The visual effects go off like fireworks, and it makes the magic seem … well, really magical.  Even the character design stands out, making Encanto one of the few mainstream American films set in Latin American or are Latino-themed that actually recognize that there are dark-skinned and black Latinos.  Not every Latino has light skin tones, light enough to front as white.

Encanto plays with notions of “magical realism,” a story that is realistic, but is infused with magic and the supernatural.  However, the world of Encanto barely looks realistic, as many animation films don't.  In fact, Encanto is one of the most magically-infused Disney films in years.

However, Encanto is like many Disney animated films – a coming of age film that focuses on the lead character, in this case, Mirabel.  The film's first dominant theme involves the struggle between tradition and change, the former embodied by Alma, who holds onto Madrigals' tradition of magic, and the latter by Mirabel, who clearly and correctly senses that something is wrong.  The second main theme is the conflict between family obligations and individual desires.  I think audiences will enjoy that, through Mirabel, Encanto shows that the family and the individual can work together for the benefit of everyone and each one.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's lively song score makes Encanto's narrative flow like an energetic stream, and the hit, “We Don't Talk About Bruno,” isn't the only excellent song.  Encanto stands out because it celebrates people overcoming suffering and life's trials and tribulations.  Also, one should take notice of the film's diversity and representation.  That makes Encanto stand out as special and as a place worth visiting time and again.

8 of 10
A
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, March 9, 2023


NOTES:
2022 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino, and Clark Spencer); 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Score” (Germaine Franco) and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Song” (Lin-Manuel Miranda-music and lyric for the song “Dos Oruguitas”)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Clark Spencer, Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and Yvett Merino)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Motion Picture – Animated;” 2 nominations: “Best Original Score-Motion Picture” (Germaine Franco) and “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Lin-Manuel Miranda for the song “Dos Oruguitas”)


The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Saturday, December 10, 2022

Review: Netflix's "THE POWER OF THE DOG" is Certainly a Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 74 of 2022 (No. 1886) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Power of the Dog (2021)
Running time:  128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPA – R for strong sexuality and language
DIRECTOR:  Jane Campion
WRITER:  Jane Campion (based on a novel by Thomas Savage)
PRODUCERS:  Jane Chapman, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier, Tanya Seghatchian, and Emile Sherman
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ari Wegner (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Peter Sciberras
COMPOSER:  Jonny Greenwood
Academy Award winner

WESTERN/DRAMA

Starring:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Genevieve Lemon, Peter Carroll, Frances Conroy, Alison Bruce, Keith Carradine, Thomasin McKenzie, Ramontay McConnell, Adam Beach, and Maeson Stone Skuggedal

The Power of the Dog is a 2021 Western drama film from writer-director Jane Campion.  It is based on the1967 novel, The Power of the Dog, from author Thomas Savage.  The Power of the Dog the movie focuses on a charismatic rancher who torments his brother, his brother's new wife, and her son.

The Power of the Dog opens in rural Montana, 1925 and focuses on Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch).  Phil is, along with brother, George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), wealthy ranch-owners.  George meets Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst), a widow and inn owner, during a cattle drive.  The kindhearted George is quickly smitten with Rose, but Phil, always coarse and volatile, dislikes her and considers her nothing more than a gold-digger who wants George's money.

Phil also belittles Rose's teenage son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), whom he derides as weak and effeminate – a sissy.  George and Rose soon marry, and Rose comes to live at the Burbank brothers' isolated ranch estate and manor home. However, Rose withers under Phil's torment.  Sometimes later, Peter comes to stay and things begin to change...

The Power of the Dog is a ridiculous title for a film, but I like it for a novel.  The film is a psychological drama dressed in the rags of a Western.  Its narrative focuses on two despicable characters (Phil and Pete) and two meek, but lovable and sympathetic characters (George and Rose).

I would not describe any of the characters as vague so much as they reflect a narrative that is oblique, which in turn reflects on characters with pinched personalities.  Benedict Cumberbatch's Phil Burbank is mean and spiteful, but just like that, one day, he turns all … gay over a weirdo kid he only hated just a few seconds ago.  Kodi Smit-McPhee's Peter may be the film's most well-developed character; it is obvious that there is a lot going on with him.  He is more than the audience can imagine and apparently quite the litle psycho-sociopath.

As I said, Kirsten's Dunst's Rose and Jessie Plemons' George are lovable, but are slight characters.  They both received Oscar nominations in supporting acting categories; whether they deserved them or not is a matter of opinion.  I will say that Dunst spends most of the film crying and sniveling and yelling and stumbling around.  Jesse Plemons is barely a whisper in the wind as George, and sometimes it seems as if George's entire screen time amounts to only a few minutes.  Of course, he is onscreen more than that; it's just that he seems to be on it much less...

I can see why actor Sam Elliot questioned The Power of the Dog's credibility as a Western.  The film lacks a central, focused voice, and girl, Westerns have voice.  It is not a bad film.  The Power of the Dog does indeed have some power and some powerful moments, but director Jane Campion sublimates the passion and the urges she says define this film.  The film lacks heart and is unhurried to the point of being meandering.

My original plan was to write a review of The Power of the Dog that was comprised of a single question mark.  However, the film's shock ending gave me a reason to say more.  I guess I'm one critic who is not buying into The Power of the Dog.

5 of 10
B-
★★½ out of 4 stars

Saturday, December 10, 2022


NOTES:
2022 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Achievement in Directing” (Jane Campion); 11 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Roger Frappier), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Jane Campion), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jesse Plemons), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Benedict Cumberbatch), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Kirsten Dunst), “Best Achievement in Production Design” (Grant Major-production design and Amber Richards-set decoration), “Best Sound” (Richard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie, and Tara Webb), “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Ari Wegner), “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Peter Sciberras), and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Score” (Jonny Greenwood)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  2 wins: “Best Film” (Jane Campion, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier, Tanya Seghatchian, and Emile Sherman) and “Best Director” (Jane Campion); 6 nominations: “Best Screenplay-Adapted” (Jane Campion), “Best Leading Actor” (Benedict Cumberbatch), “Best Supporting Actor” (Jesse Plemons), “Best Supporting Actor” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), “Best Cinematography” (Ari Wegner), and “Original Score” (Jonny Greenwood)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  3 wins:  “Best Motion Picture-Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and “Best Director-Motion Picture” (Jane Campion); 4 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Benedict Cumberbatch), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Kirsten Dunst), “Best Screenplay-Motion Picture” (Jane Campion), and “Best Original Score-Motion Picture” (Jonny Greenwood)


The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Review: "DRIVE MY CAR" is an Extraordinary Drama and is One of 2021's Best Films

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 47 of 2022 (No. 1859) by Leroy Douresseaux

Drive My Car (2021)
Original title: Doraibu Mai Kā (Japan)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:  Japan; Languages: Japanese, Korean Sign Language, English, and others
Running time:  179 minutes (2 hours, 59 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Ryûsuke Hamaguchi
WRITERS:  Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe (based on the short story by Haruki Murakami)
PRODUCERS:  Teruhisa Yamamoto
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Hidetoshi Shinomiya
EDITOR:  Azusa Yamazaki
COMPOSER:  Eiko Ishibashi
Academy Award winner

DRAMA

Starring:  Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Reika Kirishima, Masaki Okada, Park Yu-rim, Jin Dae-yeon, Sonia Yuan, Ahn Hwitae, Peri Dizon, and Satoko Abe

Doraibu Mai Kā is a 2021 Japanese drama film directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi.  The film is also known by its English title, Drive My Car (the title which I will use for this review).  The film is based on author Haruki Murakami's short story, "Drive My Car," which is included in Murakami's 2014 short story collection, Men Without Women.  Drive My Car the movie focuses on a recent widower who is directing a play and dealing with the fact that he must accept someone else driving his beloved car.

Drive My Car is set in Japan and introduces actor and well-known theater director, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima).  He was married to Oto (Reika Kirishima), an attractive screenwriter who suddenly died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Two years later, Yusuke accepts a residency in Hiroshima, where he will direct a multilingual adaptation of Uncle Vanya, the 1898 play by the renowned Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov.  Yusuke also discovers that the theater company financing Uncle Vanya, the Hiroshima Arts and Culture Center, requires that Yusuke not drive his car, but instead be chauffeured in his own car.  He objects at first, but a reserved young female chauffeur, Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), reveals herself to be a skilled driver.  So Yusuke accepts someone else driving his car.

Yusuke begins casting the play and discovers that one of the auditioning actors is Koshi Takatsuki, a former colleague of his late wife, Oto.  As he works through the play with the cast, Yusuke deals with his grief, but discovers that the young actor, Koshi, and his young driver, Misaki, are also dealing with grief, regret, and inner turmoil.

Apparently, the complicated feelings and trauma of the characters in Drive My Car echo the emotional turmoil of the characters in Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya.  I have never read Uncle Vanya, nor have I ever seen a production of it.

That does not stop me from seeing Drive My Car as probably the best film of 2021.  The film is meditative and contemplative and has a smooth, calm pace which heightens the film's sense of intimacy.  This tranquility allows director Ryusuke Hamaguchi to direct a film in which it really looks like the actors are engaging in self-examination.  The film's themes of regret, of accepting others as they are, and of self-acceptance feel genuine.

One might think that Drive My Car is dull or even complicated, but it is not.  The film is rather straightforward, and the confrontations between characters can be intense but feel constructive.  Drive My Car may be too slow for most American audiences, but I think that serious film lovers will find themselves engrossed by this hauntingly beautiful and most painfully human film.  They may even find it helpful.  Watching the film, I felt as if I were experiencing something I needed to see and hear a long time ago.

This film received many honors, including winning the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film.”  Still, I would have liked to have seen some of its cast, especially lead actor, Hidetoshi Nishijima (Yusuke), and supporting actress, Toko Miura (as the drive Misaki), earn Oscar acting notices.  Yusuke and Misaki's scenes at the latter's old home during the last half hour of the film are some of the best in years and some of the best performed.  Other cast members:  Reika Kirishima, Masaki Okada, and Park Yu-rim, are also worthy of award notice.

Drive My Car's cinematographer, Hidetoshi Shinomiya, made the film one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, of the year.  From majestic exterior vistas to shadowy and cozy interiors shots, Drive My Car looks both intimate and epic.  Eiko Ishibashi's film score, with its futuristic flourishes and electronica sensibilities, accentuates Shinomiya's cinematography,

That is the thing about Drive My Car.  Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi has great collaborators, including his co-writer, Takamasa Oe, and he could not have made Drive My Car the achievement in cinema that it is without them.  He could not have made a film in which some of its best scenes occur inside a moving car such an sublime film experience.  Drive My Car.

10 of 10

Friday, August 12, 2022

NOTES:
2022 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best International Feature Film” (Japan); 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Teruhisa Yamamoto), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi), and “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  1 win “Best Film Not in the English Language” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Teruhisa Yamamoto); 2 nominations: “Best Director” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi) and “Best Screenplay-Adapted” )Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win : “Best Motion Picture – Non-English Language” (Japan)

2021 Cannes Film Festival:  3 wins: “Best Screenplay” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe), “FIPRESCI Prize” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi), and “Prize of the Ecumenical Jury” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)
; 1 nomination: “Palme d'Or” (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Friday, June 24, 2022

Review: "PARALLEL MOTHERS" is Another Almodovar-Cruz Masterpiece

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 39 of 2022 (No. 1851) by Leroy Douresseaux

Parallel Mothers (2021)
Original title: Madres paralelas
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Spain; Language: Spanish
Running time:  123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
MPA – R for some sexuality
WRITER/DIRECTOR:  Pedro Almodóvar
PRODUCERS:  Augustin Almodóvar and Esther Garcia
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  José Luis Alcaine (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Teresa Font
COMPOSER:  Alberto Iglesias
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA

Starring:  Penelope Cruz, Milena Smit, Israel Elejalde, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Julieta Serrano, Adelfa Clavo, Carmen Flores, Ainhoa Santamaria, and Rossy de Palma

Madres paralelas is a 2021 Spanish drama film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar.  The film is also known by its English release title, Parallel Mothers (the title I will use for this review).  The film focuses on two mothers who give birth on the same day causing them to bond in unexpected ways.

Parallel Mothers introduces Janis Martínez (Penelope Cruz), a highly considered magazine photographer.  She does a photo shoot with renowned forensic archaeologist, Arturo (Israel Elejalde). She asks him if his foundation will help excavate a mass grave in her home village, where she believes her great-grandfather and other men from the village were killed and buried during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).  After he agrees to review the case with his foundation, Arturo has sexual relations with Janis, who becomes pregnant.

Later, Janis shares a hospital room with Ana Manso (Milena Smit), a teen single mother, and the two end up giving birth at the same time.  Janis has a daughter whom she names “Cecilia,” and Ana a daughter she names “Anita.”  The women promise to stay in touch, but Janis makes a series of shocking discoveries that will change both their lives.

Parallel Mothers is obviously an acting showcase for Penelope Cruz, who wastes no time exercising her prodigious talents.  Cruz won numerous awards and received even more nominations for her performance as Janis Martinez.  Writer-director Pedro Almodovar has spent his four-decade career in film making writing wonderful roles for women that result is wonderful films featuring an eclectic group of actresses.

Parallel Mothers' women are united across time by the bonds of motherhood, family, friendship, and loss.  They are the speakers for the dead and the nurtures of men, but they also nurture and support and lift-up the other women in their lives.  This is the uplift that Janis will provide for Ana, played by actress Milena Smit as a pixie of a girl in need of mothering.  Janis and Ana are the solid center and radiant soul of this film about the complications and twists, the pain and the glory, and joy, sadness, and bittersweet nature of being a mother.

The film has a subplot involving the Spanish Civil War, which is the impetus for the Janis and Arturo conceiving a child.  The search for the missing graves in her village, a grave that will hold the remains of her great-grandfather and the grandfathers of other women she knows is also part of the film's theme of loss and separation.  These men, murdered in the civil war, should ultimately have a decent burial, and Janis and the other women will see to that.

Pedro Almodovar offers a film that is as raw and unflinching as it is beautiful.  He draws out performances that are unashamedly naked and vulnerable in their depictions and displays of emotions, in a way American films tend to avoid, even Oscar-bait films.  Sometimes Almodovar can be riotous and uproarious, but other times he can be uncannily intimate, as he is here.  Sometimes, I feel unworthy of viewing his amazing films, which are so different and so much more daring than what I usually watch.  Parallel Mothers is one of 2021's very best films and reveals that the Spanish maestro is, as usual, in top form.

10 of 10

Friday, June 24, 2022


NOTES:
2022 Academy Awards, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Penelope Cruz) and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Score (Alberto Iglesias)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Film not in the English Language” (Pedro Almodóvar and Augustin Almodovar)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Non-English Language” (
Spain) and Best Original Score – Motion Picture (Alberto Iglesias)


The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Thursday, June 16, 2022

Review: "LICORICE PIZZA" is a Dumb Title for a Freaking Fantastic Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 36 of 2022 (No. 1848) by Leroy Douresseaux

Licorice Pizza (2021)
Running time:  133 minutes (2 hours, 13 minutes)
MPA – R for language, sexual material and some drug use
WRITER/DIRECTOR:  Paul Thomas Anderson
PRODUCERS:  Paul Thomas Anderson, Sara Murphy, and Adam Somner
CINEMATOGRAPHERS:  Paul Thomas Anderson (D.o.P.) and Michael Bauman
EDITOR:  Andy Jurgensen
COMPOSER:  Jonny Greenwood
Academy Award nominee

ROMANCE/COMEDY/DRAMA/HISTORICAL

Starring:  Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Will Angarola, Griff Giacchino, James Kelley, Maya Rudolph, Iyana Halley, Ryan Heffington, Benny Safdie, Joseph Cross, and Bradley Cooper

Licorice Pizza is a 2021 coming-of-age comedy and drama and period film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  The film focuses on the adventures and misadventures of a teenage boy and a 20-something young woman as their romantic relationship develops.

Licorice Pizza is set in San Fernando Valley, California, circa 1973.  The film introduces 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), a child actor.  While preparing for “picture day” at his high school, Gary notices the photographer's assistant, Alana Kane (Alana Haim).  Gary is smitten with her and strikes up a conversation, but Alana, who says that she is 25-years-old (although she could be as much as 28-years-old), tries to rebuff him, to no avail.

A kind of romance begins while Gary becomes a budding teenage businessman and while Alana tries to get her life together.  This version of “first love,” however, involves a treacherous navigation as both are attracted to other people.  This includes other teen girls for Gary and actors and politicians for Alana.  Meanwhile, there is an entire San Fernando Valley of adventures to be had and some growing up to do.

The Los Angeles Times described Licorice Pizza as a “family-and-friends-project” because much of the cast of the film is made up of Paul Thomas Anderson's family and friends.  The lead actor, Cooper Hoffman, is the son of the late actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who appeared in several of Anderson's films.  A former local restaurant that Anderson patronized is recreated for the film.  Living and deceased Hollywood celebrities appear as characters in the film, including legendary television star and studio executive, Lucille Ball, and film producer, Jon Peters.  Gary Valentine and his adventures are based on the life of former child actor turned film and TV producer, Gary Goetzman, a friend of Anderson's and the producing partner of actor Tom Hanks.  The film even takes its title from, “Licorice Pizza” (1969-85), a former Southern California record store chain that, through sales and acquisitions, became part of the “Musicland” brand.

Thinking about Licorice Pizza, I can only regard it as perfect, and I feel that its perfection comes from the fact that the concept, plot, story, setting, and characters come from a place of love and of familiarity for Anderson.  Everything feels natural and real, and there were instances when I was watching this film that it felt like I was staring through a window in time at something that had actually taken place.

To me, Anderson's screenplay is perfect down to the punctuation and indention.  To change it would be to ruin it.  Even the soundtrack is filled with songs that seem as if they were recorded long ago, but were always meant for Licorice Pizza.

Gary Valentine and Alana Kane (love those names) are so well-developed and so naturally developed that I found myself loving them, being annoyed at them, and being worried for them – as if they were my own charges.  As Gary, Hoffman gives one of the best performances of a teenage character that I have ever seen.  Alana Haim is Meryl Streep and Glenn Close good as Alana Kane, and her not receiving an Oscar nomination for this performance is artistic theft.

Well … I love this film, and I demand that you watch it.  Or I'll beg if that's what it takes.  The lives of white kids in 1970s San Fernando Valley is a star system away from when and how I grew up.  Still, I could feel that era and the lives of these people in my heart.  Honestly, Licorice Pizza is a stupid-ass title for a stupendous-ass film.  If the title is what is holding you back from seeing it, ignore that title and see one of the truly great films of the last several years.

10 of 10

Wednesday, June 15, 2022


NOTES:
2022 Academy Awards, USA:  3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Sara Murphy, Adam Somner, and Paul Thomas Anderson), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Paul Thomas Anderson), and “Best Original Screenplay” (Paul Thomas Anderson)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  1 win:  “Best Screenplay-Original (Paul Thomas Anderson);  4 nominations: “Best Film” (Sara Murphy, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Adam Somner), “Best Director” (Paul Thomas Anderson), “Best Leading Actress” (Alana Haim), “Best Editing” (Andy Jurgensen)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy,” “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Alana Haim), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Cooper Hoffman), and “Best Screenplay – Motion Picture” (Paul Thomas Anderson)


The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site or blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Thursday, May 5, 2022

Review: "NIGHTMARE ALLEY" is One of 2021's Very Best Films

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 27 of 2022 (No. 1839) by Leroy Douresseaux

Nightmare Alley (2021)
Running time:  150 minutes (2 hours, 30 minutes)
MPA – R for strong/bloody violence, some sexual content, nudity and language
DIRECTOR:  Guillermo del Toro
WRITERS: Guillermo del Toro and Kim Morgan (based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham)
PRODUCERS:  Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale, and Bradley Cooper
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Dan Laustsen (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Cameron McLauchlin
COMPOSER:  Nathan Johnson
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/FILM-NOIR

Starring:  Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, Peter MacNeill, David Strathairn, Mark Povinelli, Holt McCallany and Paul Anderson

Nightmare Alley is a 2021 neo-noir crime thriller and drama directed by Guillermo del Toro.  The film is an adaptation of the 1946 novel, Nightmare Alley, which was written by William Lindsay Gresham.  Nightmare Alley the film focuses on a drifter who works his way from low-ranking carnival employee to acclaimed psychic medium on his way to his self-made doom.

Nightmare Alley opens in 1939 and introduces Stanton “Stan” Carlisle (Bradley Cooper).  A drifter, Stan gets a job at a carnival operated by Clement “Clem”Hoatley (Willem Dafoe).  He begins working with the carnival's clairvoyant act, “Madame Zeena,” (Toni Collette) and her alcoholic husband, Peter “Pete” Krumbein (David Strathairn).  They use coded language and cold reading tricks, which Pete keeps in a secret book.  Although Pete teaches tricks to Stan, he also warns him against using these tricks to be a mentalist that pretends to speak to the dead, known as a “spookshow.”

Stan becomes attracted to a fellow performer, Mary Margaret “Molly” Cahill (Rooney Mara), and he eventually convinces her to leave with him.  Two years later, Stan has successfully reinvented himself with a psychic act for the wealthy elite of Buffalo, and Molly is his assistant.  His act has attracted the attention of consulting psychologist, Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), and she is determined to reveal him as a fraud.  Thus, begins a cat and mouse game between Stan and Lilith that will destroy lives.

Nightmare Alley is not the first film adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham's novel.  Hollywood legend Tyrone Power starred in a 1947 version in a bid to escape from the kinds of films (romance and adventure) that had made him a Hollywood star, but had also relegated him to the same kinds of roles (romantic leads and swashbuckling heroes).  From what I have read, Guillermo del Toro's 2021 version is more faithful to original novel than the 1947 film.

Some excellent and even great films are ruined or nearly ruined by their endings.  Del Toro's Nightmare Alley is solidified as a great film because of its ending, which brings back elements from the beginning of the film.  Bradley Cooper's Stan Carlisle is a doomed fool, a man consumed by greed and self-interest.  As his lust for power and greed for money and fame become more evident, Nightmare Alley turns truly prophetic.  A con man's ultimate mark is himself, and Stan never paid attention to the warnings, especially those that came when he first started working for Clem.

Although Cooper's status as the lead actor playing the lead character allows him to deliver a powerful performance, others in Nightmare Alley are also quite good.  Toni Collette, always good, is lovely here as the saintly, whorish, motherly Madame Zeena, while David Strathairn, also always good, is excellent as the pitiful prophet and father figure, Pete.  Cate Blanchett, decked in top notch hair and make-up and costumes, is the femme fatale as demoness, Lilith Ritter.  The film's best performance, however, is delivered by Rooney Mara, who in subtle shades and quiet gestures represents kind people in this film.  In a film determined to be dark and condemning, Mara's Molly is the film's humanity and hope.

As usual, Nightmare Alley offers Del Toro's haunting gothic visuals.  The production design, cinematography, costume design, and hair and make-up all capture this film's clash of vistas:  Depression-era destitution against a world of wealth, opulence, privilege, and corruption that ignored the poverty and decay right under their noses.  From ragged carnival garb to fabulous raiment; from the rundown world of carnies to the glow of swanky nightclubs:  Nightmare Alley is a vision of the darkness beneath the American dream and its illusions of wealth and power.  I have a few quibbles with Nightmare Alley, finding it a bit too dry, cold, and brittle in places.  Still, Nightmare Alley is another great film by the master of illusions, director Guillermo del Toro.

9 of 10
A+
★★★★+ out of 4 stars


Thursday, May 5, 2022


NOTES:
2022 Academy Awards, USA:  4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale, and Bradley Cooper); “Best Achievement in Production Design” (Tamara Deverell-production design and Shane Vieau-set decoration); “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Luis Sequeira), and “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Dan Laustsen)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  3 nominations: “Best Cinematography” (Dan Laustsen), “Best Costume Design” (Luis Sequeira), and “Best Production Design” (Tamara Deverell and Shane Vieau)



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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Review: Pixar's "LUCA" is a True Disney Instant Classic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 26 of 2022 (No. 1838) by Leroy Douresseaux

Luca (2021)
Running time:  95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
MPAA –  PG for rude humor, language, some thematic elements and brief violence
DIRECTOR:  Enrico Casarosa
WRITERS:  Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones; from a story by Enrico Casarosa, Jesse Andrews, and Simon Stephenson
PRODUCER:  Andrea Warren
CINEMATOGRAPHERS:  David Juan Bianchi (D.o.P.) and Kim White (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Catherine Apple and Jason Hudak
COMPOSER: Dan Romer
Academy Award nominee

ANIMATION/FANTASY/ADVENTURE/COMEDY/DRAMA

Starring:  (voices) Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan, Peter Sohn, Lorenzo Crisci, Marina Massironi, Gino LaMoica, Sandy Martin, and Sacha Baron Cohen

Luca is a 2021 computer-animated, coming-of-age, fantasy film directed by Enrico Casarosa, produced by Pixar Animation Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.  The film focuses on a two sea monster boys disguised as humans and the human girl they befriend.

Luca opens sometime in the 1950s in and around the Italian Riviera.  Below the surface of the waters of the Riviera live a group of sea monsters.  Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay), a timid young sea monster, herds goatfish below the coast of the small Italian town of Portorosso.  Luca is curious about the human world, but his parents, Daniela (Maya Rudolph) and Lorenzo Paguro (Jim Gaffigan), fear that the humans might hunt him for food.  Thus, they forbid him from approaching the surface.

One day, Luca meets Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer), a fellow sea monster boy who lives alone above the surface on Isola del Mare.  Alberto encourages Luca to venture out of the ocean, showing him that sea monsters turn into humans when their bodies become dry, but return to their true forms when they become wet.  Alberto invites Luca to his hideout where the boys connect and dream about owning a Vespa (an Italian luxury brand of scooter) so that they can travel the world.

Venturing into Portorosso as humans, the boys discover that a local children's triathlon, the “Portorosso Cup,” is about to take place.  They run afoul of Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo), the local bully and five-time champion of the Portorosso Cup.  They also meet a young girl named Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman), the daughter of a fisherman, Massimo Marcovaldo (Marco Barricelli).  Giulia has participated in the triathlon, but has never won.  Hoping to win the money they need to buy a Vespa, Luca and Alberto form a team with Giulia.  Through Giulia, Luca learns that there is so much more to the surface world, but his feelings for her threaten everything, including his plans with Alberto.

I could say that Luca is one of Pixar's most beautiful films, and I will, although that is redundant.  Pixar's films always have beautiful visuals, and sometimes they are stunning and a wonder to behold.  The film is drenched in the bright colors of the Italian Riviera and reinterprets them as if they were watercolor paintings.

Dear readers, perhaps you are familiar with the animated films of the Japanese master, Hayao Miyazaki.  His films are a symphony of wondrous colors and stunning locales, and those films clearly have an influence on Luca on a number of levels, especially in terms of visuals and in the tone of the story.  Luca's town of Portorosso may be named in honor of Miyazaki's 1992 animated film, Porco Rosso, which is also set in Italy.

I think the elements that really drive this film, its beauty aside, are the characters and voice performances.  The characters are very well developed:  their personalities, their goals, and fears.  From Alberto's jealousy and fear of loss to Giulia's determination and open-mindedness, the viewer can believe in these characters.  Luca is ostensibly a coming-of-age story focusing on Luca.  His sense of adventure is overcome by his fear of trying new things, whether it is actually going to the surface world or going to school.  In Luca, we see the film's themes of acceptance (accepting others, accepting help, and accepting oneself) and overcoming fear (especially the fear of change).  Luca takes on a beautiful journey as we see the evolution of the title character, and as for the coming-of-age angle, this film feels like only the first chapter of Luca's coming of age.

The voice performances make the characters seem like real people.  If there were an Oscar for voice performances, Jacob Tremblay as Luca would be worthy of being nominated.  Every performance is winning, from major characters to bit players.  I am crazy about the performances here.

Dan Romer's beautiful score highlights and accentuates the journey of change and evolution that is Luca, both the film and the character.  Luca is one of Pixar's most convincing boy characters, which is quite a feat in a filmography full of wonderfully drawn characters.  Speaking of drawn, the character design and art direction and production design are on par with Pixar's best.

I always thought that I would like Luca, and now that I have seen it, I am in love with it.  For me, Luca is one of Pixar's best ever films, and it is one of 2021's very best films  I recommend it without reservation; everyone should see it.

10 of 10

Thursday, April 28, 2022


NOTES:
2022 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Enrico Casarosa and Andrea Warren)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Enrico Casarosa and Andrea Warren)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination:  “Best Motion Picture-Animated”

2022 Black Reel Awards:  1 win: “Outstanding Voice Performance” (Maya Rudolph)

2022 Image Awards (NAACP):  1 nomination: “Outstanding Animated Motion Picture”


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Friday, April 15, 2022

Review: "THE KING'S MAN" is the Best "Kingsman" Yet

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 23 of 2022 (No. 1835) by Leroy Douresseaux

The King's Man (2021)
Running time: 131 minutes (2 hours, 11 minutes)
MPA – R for sequences of strong/bloody violence, language, and some sexual material
DIRECTOR:  Matthew Vaughn
WRITERS:  Matthew Vaughn and Karl Gajdusek; from a story by Matthew Vaughn (based on on the comic book, The Secret Service, by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons)
PRODUCERS:  Adam Bohling, David Reid, and Matthew Vaughn
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ben Davis (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Jason Ballantine and Rob Hall
COMPOSERS:  Dominic Lewis and Matthew Margeson

FANTASY/ACTION/SPY/WAR with some elements of comedy

Starring:  Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Djimon Hounsou, Rhys Ifans, Harris Dickinson, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Daniel Brühl, Charles Dance, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Stanley Tucci

The King's Man is a 2021 spy and action movie and war drama from director Matthew Vaughn.  It is the third film in the Kingsman film series, and it is a “prequel” to the previous two films, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017).  All three films are based on characters and elements from the 2012 comic book miniseries, The Secret Service, by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.  The King's Man focuses on an aristocrat and his spy network as they try to stop a plot to pit the British, German, and Russian empires against each other in a war that will wipe out millions of lives.

The King's Man introduces British aristocrat Orlando, Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes).  In 1914, Orlando has formed a private spy network consisting of domestic servants employed by the world's most powerful dignitaries.  His own servants, his butler, Shola (Djimon Hounsou), and his maid/nanny, Polly Watkins (Gemma Arterton), are his closest aides and confidants.  The primary objective of Orlando's network is to protect the United Kingdom and the British Empire from the conflagration of the approaching “Great War.”

Orlando's only son, Conrad (Harris Dickinson), is eager to fight, but Orlando forbids him from joining the British Army and uses his connections to keep him from entering service.  Besides, there are other things to keep father, son, and the spy network busy.  Orlando's friend, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Ron Cook), and his wife are assassinated.  Orlando learns that the assassin is part of “The Flock,” a group plotting to pit the German, Russian, and British empires against each other in the Great War.

Orlando and his network then engage in a series of adventures to foil the Flock's plans, that includes killing Grigori Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), the priest and mystic who serves the Flock's mysterious leader, “The Shepherd.”  As his personal physician, Rasputin practically controls Tsar Nicholas (Tom Hollander) of Russia.  And if Nicholas does as Rasputin wants, Great Britain may be doomed.  Can Orlando and his network stop The Shepherd and save the British Empire?  And will Conrad remain with his father's network or will he force his way into military service in a war in which young men like him are dying by the thousands?

The King's Man is easily the best of the Kingsman series, thus far.  The villain, “The Shepherd,” is ridiculous, but his motivations will make more sense and is more likely to appeal to British audiences.  For me, The Shepherd is what keeps The King's Man from being a truly great film.

The film's remix of the history of the “Great War” (World War I) seems inappropriate, but the film's inclusion of WWI is what makes it stand out from other films based on comic books.  In fact, The King's Man is grounded in a darker take on that war than another comic book movie, Wonder Woman (2017), which is also largely set during the first World War.  In a way, The King's Man seems like a salute to the men who served and the ones who died in the muck and mud of Europe during “the war to end all wars.”

Ralph Fiennes brings a touch of class and some serious dramatic chops to this film.  It seems as if director Matthew Vaughn and his co-writer, Karl Gajdusek, take this film more seriously than Vaughn did with the previous two films, which were action-spy movies with a strong comic overtone.  The King's Man is a war drama, spy serial, and action-thriller, and Fiennes, as Orlando, the Duke of Oxford, sells this film's seriousness.

Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou are also quite good as Orlando's top lieutenants, Polly and Shola, respectively.  As Rasputin, Rhys Ifans offers a performance that is off-beat, over-the-top, and colorful.  Tom Hollander, with the help of the make-up and hairstyling crew of The King's Man, is credible in three roles, but makes his most potent turn as Britain's King George.  Harris Dickinson as Orlando's son, Conrad, gives the film's most hot-blooded and nuanced performance.

The best way I can describe The King's Man is as being like a serial adventure.  The film's plot is comprised of multiple missions and subplots, which keeps the film's narrative hopping.  The film moves fast, fast enough to keep audiences from focusing on the film's inconsistencies and flaws in logic, but also fast enough to make the story seem like a non-stop, breathtaking adventure.  Like Matthew Vaughn himself, I want to see a fourth film in the series, one that focuses on the characters that make it to the end of this film and on their first decade as the “Kingsman.”  I highly recommend The King's Man to audiences that have watched either of the first two films or both.  They were really a build up to the best of their lot, The King's Man.

7 of 10
A-

Thursday, April 14, 2022


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Saturday, April 9, 2022

Review: "SING 2" is Full of Feel-Good Magic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 21 of 2022 (No. 1833) by Leroy Douresseaux

Sing 2 (2021)
Running time:  110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPA – PG for some rude material and mild peril/violence
WRITER/DIRECTOR:  Garth Jennings
PRODUCERS:  Janet Healy and Chris Meledandri
EDITOR:  Gregory Perler
COMPOSER:  Joby Talbot

ANIMATION/FANTASY/MUSICAL AND FAMILY/COMEDY

Starring:  (voices) Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Jennifer Saunders, Garth Jennings, Chelsea Peretti, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Offerman, Adam Buxton, Eric Andre, Halsey, Letitia Wright, Bono, Pharrell Williams, Julia Davis, Peter Serafinowicz, and Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze

Sing 2 is a 2021 computer-animated, jukebox musical comedy film written and directed by Garth Jennings and produced by Illumination Entertainment.  It is a sequel to the 2016 animated film, Sing.  In Sing 2, the Moon Theater crew must persuade a media mogul and a reclusive rock star to believe in their new show.

Sing 2 opens some time after the events depicted in Sing.  Buster Moon the koala (Matthew McConaughey) and the rebuilt “Moon Theater” are thriving.  His latest goal is to impress Suki (Chelsea Peretti), a talent scout from Crystal Entertainment in Redshore City, but Suki is definitely not impressed with the stars of the theater.  So Buster leads his troupe:  Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a housewife and mother of 25 piglets; Gunter (Nick Kroll), the exuberant pig performer who wants to dance as much as he wants to sing; Ash (Scarlett Johansson), the punk-rock porcupine and singer; Johnny (Taron Egerton), the teenage gorilla singer, and Meena (Tori Kelly), the shy teenage elephant singer, to their destiny in Redshore.

Once there, they infiltrate Crystal Tower Theater in order to get an audience with Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale), a white wolf and media mogul, but Crystal brushes them off.  Desperate, Buster starts making promises to Crystal.  The first is that he and his troupe can stage a massive space-themed musical, “Out of This World.”  Secondly, Buster says that he can get reclusive rock legend, Clay Calloway (Bono), to be part of his show.

The problem is that Calloway has not been seen in over fifteen years since his wife died.  Buster sends his secretary, Miss Crawly (Garth Jennings), to find him.  After Miss Crawly fails spectacularly, Buster's show is in trouble and his life is on the line with Jimmy Crystal.  Is there anyway or anyone that can save “Out of This World?”

I recently watched the original film, Sing, for the first time.  I found that all the obstacles that Buster and his troupe face in the original were all over the place and overkill, and I did not think that Matthew McConaughey's voice performance amounted to much.  McConaughey is better in Sing 2, but not great.  The conflict and obstacles that Buster and the Moon Theater troupe face are singularly focused or directly related to putting on their sci-fi show, “Out of This World.”

In Sing 2, I find the returning characters to be likable or more likable, perhaps, because I am now more familiar with then.  There are also some excellent new characters.  I hope Letitia Wright's Nooshy, a lynx and a street dancer who teaches Johnny to dance, returns if there is another film in the series.  Porsha Crystal (Halsey), Jimmy's daughter, actually grows as a character in the film.  Bobby Cannavale has a fine old time with his performance as Jimmy Crystal, and noted film director, Spike Jonze, is excellent as Jerry the cat, Jimmy's loyal and groveling assistant.  As Clay Calloway, Bono (of the legendary rock band, U2) doesn't sound like Bono, and his performance is mostly flat.

The film's big musical finale, the actual performance of “Out of This World,” is sweet and lovely, although it is a little over the top.  It is an excellent show-stopper, and serves as a nice send off for Buster Moon and his troupe – on to better things.  I hope that there is a third film in the series.  Watching the endearing Sing 2 reminded me of why I really love watching animated films, especially computer-animated films.  They are the warm cup of cocoa in my life as a movie lover.

7 of 10
A-

Saturday, April 9, 2022


NOTES:
2022 Image Awards (NAACP):  1 win: “Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance-Motion Picture” (Letitia Wright); 2 nominations: “Outstanding Animated Motion Picture” (Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance-Motion Picture” (Eric André)


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Thursday, April 7, 2022

Review: Jessica Chastain in "THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE" - Good Gawd!

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 19 of 2022 (No. 1831) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)
Running time:  126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual content and drug abuse
DIRECTOR:  Michael Showalter
WRITER: Abe Sylvia (based on the documentary by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato)
PRODUCERS:  Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Gioulakis (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Mary Jo Markey and Andrew Weisblum
COMPOSER:  Theodore Shapiro
Academy Award winner

DRAMA/BIOPIC

Starring:  Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Vincent D'Onofrio, Mark Wystrach, Sam Jaeger, Louis Cancelmi, Gabriel Olds, Fredric Lehne, Jay Huguley, Dan Johnson, and Chandler Head

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a 2021 biographical drama film directed by Michael Showalter.  The film is based on the 2000 documentary film, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, which was directed and produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.  The Eyes of Tammy Faye the movie takes a look at the rise into fame and fall into infamy of evangelist and television personality, Tammy Faye Bakker.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye introduces young Tamara Faye LaValley (Chandler Head) in the year 1952.  Growing up in a religious community in International Falls, Minnesota, Tammy is an outcast because her mother, Rachel Grover (Cherry Jones), divorced Tammy's father.  Although she is now married to Fred Grover (Fredric Lehne), Rachel believes that she is seen by some as a harlot.  She hides Tammy in order to hide her shame.  However, young Tammy Faye ain't having none of that and inserts herself into the church.  The parishioners become attracted to the way she speaks Biblical scripture and the way in which she “speaks in tongues.”

In 1960, while attending North Central Bible College in Minneapolis Minnesota, Tammy (Jessica Chastain) meets and falls in love with fellow college student, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield).  In 1961, the two marry and drop out of college.  They drive around the United States to preach and inspire Christian communities, with Jim preaching and Tammy singing and playing with puppets for children.  Seeking to create and have control over their own programs, the couple create “The PTL Club,” the flagship show of their PTL Satellite Network.  Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker become increasingly popular over the years, but with fame comes more money and more secrets and lies.  Can Jim and Tammy Faye save themselves with the success in which they save souls?

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is about Tammy Faye LaValley/Bakker/Messner, and as Tammy Faye, Jessica Chastain gives the performance of her career.  That is saying a lot, as Chastain's career is filled with bravura performances, except for her god-awful turn in 2019's (X-Men:) Dark Phoenix.  Chastain, who recently won a “Best Actress” Oscar for this performance, buries herself in the work of this film's make-up and hairstyling artists (who also won and Oscar) and reemerges as an attractive and alluring fictional version of the real life Tammy Faye.  I couldn't stop watching her, believing in her, and seeing Chastain's Tammy Faye as a real person that I wanted to think about for the entire run time of this film.

It is a testament to Andrew Garfield's acting skills that he created space in this film for Jim Bakker.  Garfield makes his Bakker a hollow man who is beset by greed and full of hypocrisy.  He condemns Tammy's minor infidelity while hiding three decades of homosexual dalliances and affairs.  Garfield's Bakker, however, can survive in the vortex that is Chastain's Tammy Faye.

The script presents Tammy as having good intentions, as being loving, and as being naive.  Jim Bakker is in love with himself and with money and fame as much as he loves God.  The story suggests that Jim's faults make the couple vulnerable to opportunists and predators, such as Jerry Faldwell, whom actor Vincent D'Onofrio portrays as some kind of evangelical crime lord.  On the other hand, the film suggests that Tammy Faye's ignorance and unwillingness to speak up at certain times contribute to her unwillingness or inability to pay heed to the warnings of Rachel, her mother.  Rachel is played by Cherry Jones in an excellent performance that would have been noticed more if it weren't in the shadow of Chastain's.

Director Michael Showalter takes the fine performances of his cast and makes a movie that is the epic as character drama.  He gives us the rise and the fall and the (somewhat) redemption of a woman who had a moment in time that ultimately trapped her in the public sphere as a figure worthy of mocking.  To me, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is saying that she did not deserve this, but I remember her as someone who deserved some of the derision pointed her way.  As the guiding force of The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Jessica Chastain deserves all the praise and awards pointed her way.

8 of 10
A

Tuesday, April 5, 2022


NOTES:
2022 Academy Awards, USA:  2 wins: “Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling” (Stephanie Ingram, Linda Dowds, and Justin Raleigh) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Jessica Chastain)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: “Best Make Up & Hair” (Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram, and Justin Raleigh)


2022 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama” (Jessica Chastain)



The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Friday, March 18, 2022

Review: "COMING 2 AMERICA" is Simply a Nice Reunion Movie

Coming 2 America (2021) – streaming film
Running time:  110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language and drug content
DIRECTOR:  Craig Brewer
WRITERS:  Kenya Barris and David Sheffield & Barry W. Blaustein; from a story by Justin Kanew and David Sheffield & Barry W. Blaustein (based on characters created by Eddie Murphy)
PRODUCERS:  Eddie Murphy and Kevin Misher
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Joe “Jody” Williams (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  David S. Clark, Billy Fox, and Debra Neil-Fisher
COMPOSER: Jermaine Stegall
Academy Award nominee

COMEDY/ROMANCE

Starring:  Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Teyana Taylor, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Nomzamo Mbatha, Bella Murphy, Paul Bates, Akiley Love, Rotimi, Louie Anderson, Trevor Noah, and Morgan Freeman

Coming 2 America is a 2021 American comedy film from director Craig Brewer.  It serves as a sequel to the 1998 film, Coming to America.  The film originally streamed on Amazon Prime.  In Coming 2 America, the crowned prince of a prosperous African nation discovers that he has an illegitimate son in America.

Coming 2 America opens in the African nation of Zamunda.  It is the 30th anniversary of the wedding of Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) to Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley).  They have three beautiful daughters:  the eldest, Meeka (KiKi Layne); the middle, Omma (Bella Murphy); and the youngest, Tinashe (Akiley Love).

Akeem is summoned before his dying father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), and the King's shaman, Baba (Arsenio Hall).  King Jaffe is upset that Akeem never sired a son, and by Zamundan law, only a male can inherit the throne.  However, Baba reveals that Akeem did indeed sire a son in Queens, New York City when he visited the United States over three decades ago (as seen in Coming to America).  In fact, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), Akeem's best friend and aide, knows the circumstances that led to Akeem conceiving a son with a bar patron.

Akeem and Semmi again travel to America where they meet Akeem's “bastard,” a young man named Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler); his mother, Mary Junson (Leslie Jones), the bar patron; and Kareem “Uncle Reem” Junson (Tracy Morgan), Mary's brother and Lavelle's uncle.  Akeem really needs Lavelle to return to Zamunda with him.  He requires a son who can marry the daughter of General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), the leader of Zamunda's neighbor, Nexdoria.  Izzi is a threat to Akeem and Zamunda, unless the two nations can be united by marriage.  Can Lavelle be the heir Akeem needs, and if so, what about Akeem's eldest daughter, Princess Meeka?

Coming to America remains one of my favorite Eddie Murphy films, topped only the fantastic 1983 film, Trading Places.  Coming 2 America is not so much a sequel as it is a film that acts like a sequel to Coming to America.  The new film is more like one of the TV reunion movies of old 1950s and 1960s television series that used to pop up on network television in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.  Like them, Coming 2 America gives us our favorite old characters (at least the ones that are still alive) and some new characters, and sprinkles in some cameos, for instance, Morgan Freeman and his famous voice.

As usual, Ruth E. Carter delivers solid gold with her costume design, and the film's production values are marvelous.  The film has a good song score and soundtrack.  There are a lot of funny scenes in Coming 2 America, but overall, the film's narrative drags.  Most of the film takes place not in America, but in Zamunda, although the scenes that take place in America (Queens, NY) pop and are generally fun.

There is not much else to say other than that I really like Coming 2 America as a reunion movie.  I have been a fan of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall for decades, and I am always happy to see them.  So, to be honest, I am happy that Coming to America has a sequel, of sorts, in Coming 2 America.

6 of 10
B

Thursday, March 18, 2022


NOTES:
2022 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling” (Michael Marino, Stacey Morris, and Carla Farmer)

2022 Black Reel Awards:  “Outstanding Costume Design” (Ruth E. Carter)

2022 Image Awards (NAACP):  2 nominations: “Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture” and “Outstanding Soundtrack/Compilation Album” (Eddie Murphy, Craig Brewer, Kevin Misher, Randy Spendlove, Jeffrey Harleston, Brittney Ramsdell for the album “Coming 2 America” – Amazon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)


The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Review: "THE FRENCH DISPATCH" is Ultimate Wes Anderson

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 of 2022 (No. 1826) by Leroy Douresseaux

The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (2021)
Running time:  107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
MPA – R for graphic nudity, some sexual references and language
DIRECTOR:  Wes Anderson
WRITERS:  Wes Anderson; from a story by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Hugo Guinness
PRODUCERS:  Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, and Steven Rales
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Robert Yeoman (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Andrew Weisblum
COMPOSER:  Alexandre Desplat

COMEDY/DRAMA/ANTHOLOGY with elements of fantasy

Starring:  Jeffrey Wright, Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Liev Schreiber, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Winston Ait Hellal, and Owen Wilson and Anjelica Huston

The French Dispatch (full title: The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun) is a 2021 comedy-drama and anthology film from writer-director Wes Anderson.  The film focuses on the French foreign bureau of a Kansas newspaper and the features magazine it produces.

The French Dispatch introduces Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray).  When he was a college freshman, he convinces his father, the owner of the newspaper, the “Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun,” to fund his transatlantic trip.  Junior would in turn produce a series of travelogue columns, which would be published for local readers in the Evening Sun's magazine supplement “Sunday Picnic.”  Arthur, Jr. sets up shop in the (fictional) French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé.  Over the next decade, young Arthur assembles a team of the best expatriate journalists of the time.  In 1925, he transforms the Sunday Picnic into the weekly magazine, “The French Dispatch” (something like The New Yorker).

In 1975, fifty years after he left Kansas, Arthur Howitzer, Jr. dies suddenly of a heart attack.  Although it has half a million subscribers in 50 countries, as per his will, The French Dispatch will immediately cease publication following the release of a farewell issue that will feature Arthur's obituary and four articles by magazine's best writers:

In “The Cycling Reporter,” Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson) gives a sight-seeing tour.  It is “a day in Ennui over the course of 250 years” and demonstrates how much and yet how little has changed in Ennui over time.

In “The Concrete Masterpiece,” J.K.L. Berensen (Tilda Swinton) delivers a lecture at an art gallery.  She details the career of Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio del Toro), a mentally disturbed artist serving a sentence in the Ennui Prison-Asylum for murder and the two most important people in his lives.  The first is Simone (Lea Seydoux), a prison officer who becomes Moses' lover and his muse.  Moses paints a portrait of Simone, and that second important person, Julien Cadazio, an art dealer also serving a sentence for tax evasion, is immediately taken by the painting.  After buying the painting, Cadazio uses it to turn Moses into an international sensation.  However, Moses struggles with inspiration, and his relationship with Simone becomes complicated.

In “Revisions to a Manifesto,” Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) reports on a student protest breaking out in the streets of Ennui, one that soon boils over into the “Chessboard Revolution.”  Krementz fails to maintain “journalistic neutrality” when she falls in love with Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet), a college boy who is the self-styled leader of the revolt.  She secretly helps him write his manifesto, but Juliette (Lyna Khoudri), a fellow revolutionary who has some feelings for Zeffirelli, is unimpressed with his manifesto – thus, creating a love triangle.

In “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) is the guest of a television talk show host (Liev Schreiber).  Wright recounts the story of his attending a private dinner with The Commissaire (Mathieu Amalric) of the Ennui police force.  The meal is prepared by the legendary police officer and chef, Lt. Nescaffier (Stephen Park).  Nescaffier is the creator of a kind of “haute cuisine” specifically designed to be eaten by police officers while they are working.  The dinner is disrupted when the Commissaire's inquisitive and bright son, Gigi (Winston Ait Hellal), is kidnapped and held for ransom by a large gang of criminals, led by a failed musician known as “The Chauffeur” (Edward Norton).

They mourn his death.  Now, the staff of The French Dispatch must put together a final issue with these four stories that Arthur Howitzer Jr. touched in some way?

The French Dispatch has been described as a film that is “a love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional twentieth century French city.”  The film presents four of the magazine's stories of the city.  Director Wes Anderson has apparently stated that this film is inspired by his love of the venerable weekly magazine, The New Yorker, and that some of the film's characters and events are based on real-life equivalents from that magazine.  During The French Dispatch's closing credits, there is a dedication to several writers and editors, many of whom wrote for The New Yorker.

To that end, The French Dispatch is a movie that celebrates magazine writers, illustrators, and editors and the stories they tell.  This film is a love letter to stories of local color and of locales written for magazines.  The film demands patience and attention on the part of the audience.  The French Dispatch is a hybrid.  It is an anthology of four main stories and of a few small chapters, although everything connects in the end.  The audience has to follow each of the main stories, paying attention from beginning to the end.  That is where the pay off comes.

In fact, each of the main stories seems like one thing in the beginning, but fully develops over the course of the narrative in something different.  At the end of each, I realized that the story was about wonderful characters living lives both ordinary and extraordinary.  In the extraordinary, Anderson gives us a reason to love what is so ordinary and human about them.

This is brilliant character writing on Anderson's part.  His gift is to make not only the lead and supporting characters fascinating, but he also makes even the characters who say little and the extras seem worth knowing – even when the narrative passes them by.  To that end, I think Roebuck Wright is the character that ties all the characters and stories together.  He is the narrator/writer of “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” the final story.  Both his first meeting and final conversation with Bill Murray's Arthur coalesces the film's theme of expatriate writers, and he begins Arthur's obituary, which also brings together the film's shifts in time.  It would have been nice to see Wright receive a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for his work here, but The French Dispatch did not receive any Oscar nominations.

The film's production values:  art direction and production design, costumes, and cinematography all meet the wonderfully inventive and incredibly imaginative standards that audiences have come to expect from Wes Anderson's films.  The French Dispatch looks like no film I have ever seen.  Even Alexandre Desplat's score sounds like something entirely new in film music.  I described Anderson's 2014 film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, as Wes Anderson art for Wes Anderson's art sake.  The French Dispatch is Wes Anderson high art.

9 of 10
A+

Thursday, March 17, 2022


NOTES:
2022 BAFTA Awards:  3 nominations: “Best Costume Design” (Milena Canonero); “Original Score” (Alexandre Desplat), and “Best Production Design” (Adam Stockhausen and Rena DeAngelo)

2022 Black Reel Awards:  1 nomination: “Outstanding Supporting Actor” (Jeffrey Wright)

2021 Cannes Film Festival:  1 nomination: “Palme d'Or” (Wes Anderson)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Alexandre Desplat)


The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.

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